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I have never written a journal before, but I'm certain it will be a success. I've done well in nearly everything I've put real effort into and I've done well in many things that I have not put an effort into.

I have no idea what to put in my first entry, so maybe I should write about myself. My name is Margaret Smith. I'm 20 years of age, soon to be 21. My hometown is Daskania, a city just outside of Volzak, what we usually call Warren's Castle. I'm the only child of the famous blacksmith Vulcan. As a big burly guy with scars and diminished eyesight from years of forging material, it fit him quite well. My mom is a commonly plain woman from where I get most of my looks. Her hair is a wonderful brown with a reddish tint. I can't say I'm fond of Mom's cooking -- I can't taste the food -- but she instilled in me the values of good hygiene and discipline. I wish she'd stop wanting me to be more lady-like, though

As for myself, I'm a pretty good fighter. Ever since I was little I've fought boys twice my size and beaten them up pretty badly. I only lost once and the fight robbed me of the ability to taste and smell. I remember vividly the hit that coward landed. He picked up a rock off the ground and smashed me in the nose. I still feel the numbness that resulted after the blow, but it's nothing compared to some of the other pains I've felt. My injury only gave me the motivation to be a better fighter.

Anne is my best and only friend. Like me she is an only child and we are both spoiled because of our distinction. Unlike me her hair is fiery red and she is uncommonly beautiful. She was a sickly child but she outgrew that phase to a healthy adulthood. Still, she's always been weaker than me. She's one of those people who you might think would be too good to be a friend, so I think of her as the little sister I never had. She saved my life, quite literally, when she steeped in between me and that coward. That jerk would have killed me I'm sure, and I'd have lost more than the pleasures of enjoying the scent of a bakery. She got knocked on the ground for all her efforts, but it allowed me to kick him below the belt and run away. If only she'd taken up fighting like myself. We would have made an excellent team.

Then again, we still can. You see, Anne and I were stuck in a predicament. In the next year or so, we'd have to settle down, or at least that's what our mothers told us. Deep down I know their concern isn't because we're women -- indeed Anne's mother was a capable fighter who taught me many moves -- but because we are only children and times grow troublesome. They heard talk of a rebellion against the Empire and seen a woman's proclamation that she would lead us out of oppression. War would take away many of the men who we could marry and the few women leaving for war reminded them how easily we could be killed. They took this news as a cause for alarm and dismay. I took this as a cause for celebration, that at last I could put my fighting skills to use for the benefit of others.

I talked to Anne about the two of us sneaking away and joining the rebel army. Of course she had reservations and made it seem to be a bigger deal than what it was, but I persuaded her to come with me to see Warren. He directed us to a Valkyrie named Tilala who said she would whip us into shape in no time. The two of us found ourselves learning both the bow and the ways of fighting in the forest, using sneaky tactics like hiding in trees and making traps for troops. Of course, some more basic things still give me trouble. I can start and control a fire well enough. Hunting game is my weak point. I shoot accurately enough to kill an enemy in several yards -- though Anne is better, the best shot of the all the soldiers -- but I have not yet had practice enough with animals and their natural quickness. My first kill, either in battle or in the hunt, will be a moment I can already hear approaching.

So here I sit in the castle, writing in a journal by candlelight. Tomorrow our leader -- that woman who made that proclamation in my town -- says we're heading for the Sharom District. Her name is Michelle, or at least I think it is. I'll learn it in time. This will be one glorious and successful adventure!

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